The perfect storm of stress occurs when not one, two, or three problems arise at once, buttwenty-seven stressors hit during a short period of time.
- You drive over a nail and get a flat tire
- You forget to pack lunch for your daughter
- The hot water heater breaks
- Your sister is going in for a minor medical procedure
- You realize that you forgot to prepare part of your presentation for work
- You spill salad dressing on your new dress
The perfect storm is the product of:
Number of plates that you are spinning X Timing of stressors
When our stressors are well spaced out, we can easily handle them. When multiple problems arise during a short period of time, however, we tend to get overwhelmed. Much of the timing of stress is just plain luck of the draw. I broke my right foot this summer and couldn’t walk or drive for about 6 weeks. I was keenly aware that if I had been hit with another stressor while I was marooned on my couch, that I would have been overwhelmed. I was simply lucky that nothing else hit during the summer.
When you’re in the middle of the perfect storm of stress, this is what I advise:
- DO reach out for help. We’ve all been there, and there are a lot of people that can relate and lend support. Try to find some humor in moment.
- DON’T beat yourself up for ‘causing’ the perfect storm. Again, the perfect storm of stress is largely the result of bad timing and bad luck.
- DO exercise. Exercise has been shown to lower stress levels and it helps you to think about your problems more clearly.
- DON’T isolate yourself from friends and family. Pushing yourself to ‘deal with it’ by yourself will likely cause further stress and anxiety.
Like a thunderstorm, the perfect storm of stress will pass!
Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D.
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